Sun, Apr 19, 12:00pm - 4:00pm
In terms of quantity, quality, and variety, this early spring tour, along the Bronx River Pathway, is the best of the year. It's our only chance, for example, to find the strong-flavored, celery-like stems of the cow parsnip. Cooking tones down the flavor and creates delightful dishes from this little-known top-quality vegetable.
If we've timed this tour correctly, we should also come across a stand of ostrich fern fiddleheads, at the peak of the very short season. This expensive gourmet food grows throughout the swamps adjacent to the river, but it's only in season for about 10 days per year.
We'll also find the asparagus-flavored false Solomon's seal, another great wild vegetable, along with the even larger true Solomon's seal, with a similar flavor.
Another plant available only on this tour is the pungent-tasting cuckoo flower, so hot it almost explodes in your mouth, somewhat like wasabi. Only cut-leaf toothwort, which we'll also only find on this tour, competes with it for heat.
Add these delicate-looking flowers to sushi, and you can leave the wasabi behind!
Once you've tasted it, you can't deny that the wild leek or ramp is the world's best-tasting member of the onion/garlic family, and this walking and biking trail is a great place to take a leek! Nearby, we'll find Virginia waterleaf, which tastes like parsley, only better, and it even cures the deadly bad breath you'll get from eating the ramps.
Wild ginger is similar to its unrelated namesake, but more delicately flavored. It's an excellent seasoning, a superb herb tea, and an effective home remedy for indigestion.
Stinging nettle, on the other hand, isn't delicate. It stings you. How did such a strange plant, loaded with hypodermic needles, get here? It probably migrated up the riverbank from its most natural habitat, the South Bronx! But, collected wearing gloves and properly cooked, it's as tasty as it is healthful. Its equally delicious sister species, the wood nettle, accompanies it, and if anyone is rash enough to get stung, we'll be able to demonstrate how jewelweed, which grows nearby, will quickly cure the resultant skin irritation
More usual but equally good early spring wild foods also abound. There's more sour-flavored curly (yellow) dock than you'd know what to do with. Burdock does great here too, with huge, easy-to-harvest taproots. Chickweed, which tastes like corn on the cob, thrives here as well, as do the sweet-spicy shoots of the daylily.
Japanese knotweed is a gourmet "nuisance" plant with a flavor like a rhubarb. It's loaded with vitamin C, plus more resveratrol, which reduces the risk of heart disease, than red wine. It supplies sourness wherever you need it, be it in fruit dishes, soups, pasta, or salad dressings, and you can even grill it like asparagus. This invasive plant sends up shoots that take over sections of the riverbank.
The common blue violet, a delicious, mild-flavored green with a tasty flower, is common here, but a less common edible white subspecies also abound, as do hybrids between the two. And this is the only tour where you'll also see the even less common yellow violet.
Common Blue Violet
Add the mild-flavored leaves and flowers to salads, soups, or stews.
If we're lucky, we'll even find gourmet mushrooms, rare in early spring. Morels and dryad's saddle have turned up on past tours.
You'll have to attend this field walk to believe it!
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Foraging expert Steve Brill has shared his foraging wisdom at schools, museums, parks departments, environmental organizations, and with scout troops since 1982. He’s written three books and an app, stars in a DVD and maintains a website.
His History with Foraging
As part of his exercise regime,...
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